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Zoo City

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Zinzi has a Sloth on her back, a dirty 419 scam habit and a talent for finding lost things. But when a little old lady turns up dead and the cops confiscate her last paycheck, she’s forced to take on her least favourite kind of job – missing persons.

Being hired by reclusive music producer Odi Huron to find a teenybop pop star should be her ticket out of Zoo City, the festering slum where the criminal underclass and their animal companions live in the shadow of hell’s undertow.

Instead, it catapults Zinzi deeper into the maw of a city twisted by crime and magic, where she’ll be forced to confront the dark secrets of former lives – including her own.

416 pages, Paperback

First published April 29, 2010

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About the author

Lauren Beukes

94 books2,880 followers
Lauren Beukes is an award-winning, best-selling novelist who also writes screenplays, TV shows, comics and journalism. Her books have been translated into 26 languages and have been optioned for film and TV.

Her awards include the Arthur C Clarke Award, the prestigious University of Johannesburg prize, the August Derleth Prize, the Strand Critics Choice Award and the RT Thriller of the Year. She’s been honoured in South Africa’s parliament and most recently won the Mbokondo Award from the Department of Arts and Culture, celebrating women in the arts for her work in the Creative Writing field.

She is the author of Broken Monsters, about art, ambition, damaged people and not-quite-broken cities, The Shining Girls, about a time-travelling serial killer, the nature of violence, and how we are haunted by history, Zoo City, a phantasmagorical noir set in Johannesburg which won the Arthur C Clarke Award and Moxyland, a dystopian political thriller about a corporate apartheid state where people are controlled by their cell phones. Her first book was a feminist pop-history, Maverick: Extraordinary Women From South Africa’s Past, which has recently been reprinted.

Her comics work includes Survivors' Club, an original Vertigo comic with Dale Halvorsen and Ryan Kelly, the New York Times-bestselling graphic novel, Fairest: The Hidden Kingdom with Inaki Miranda, and a Wonder Woman one-shot for kids, “The Trouble With Cats” in Sensation Comics, set in Mozambique and Soweto and drawn by Mike Maihack.

Her film and TV work includes directing the documentary, Glitterboys & Ganglands, about Cape Town’s biggest female impersonation beauty pageant. The film won best LGBT film at the San Diego Black Film Festival.

She was the showrunner on South Africa’s first full length animated TV series, URBO: The Adventures of Pax Afrika which ran for 104 half hour episodes from 2006-2009 on SABC3. She’s also written for the Disney shows Mouk and Florrie’s Dragons and on the satirical political puppet show,ZANews and Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s South African Story.

Before that she was a freelance journalist for eight years, writing about electricity cable thieves, TB, circumcision, telemedicine, great white sharks, homeless sex workers, Botswana’s first female high court judge, and Barbie as a feminist icon for magazines ranging from The Sunday Times Lifestyle to Nature Medicine, Colors, The Big Issue and Marie Claire.

She lives in Cape Town, South Africa with her daughter.

Twitter.com/laurenbeukes Instagram.com/laurenbeukes Facebook.com/laurenbeukes

Awards & Achievements
2015 South Africa’s Mbokondo Award for Women In The Arts: Creative Writing
2014 August Derleth Award for The Shining Girls
2014 Strand Critics Choice Award for The Shining Girls
2014 NPR Best Books of the Year Broken Monsters
2014 LA Times Best Books of the Year Broken Monsters
2013 University of Johannesburg Literature Prize for The Shining Girls
2013 RT Thriller of the Year for The Shining Girls
2013 WHSmith Richard & Judy BookClub Choice
2013 Exclusive Books’ Bookseller’s Choice for The Shining Girls
2013 Amazon Best Mysteries and Thrillers for The Shining Girls
2011 Kitschies Red Tentacle for Zoo City
2010 Arthur C Clarke Award for Zoo City

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,578 reviews
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,401 reviews11.7k followers
January 31, 2012
As seen on The Readventurer

Just when I think there is no urban fantasy in existence which breaks away from the formulaic and same-old-same-old, I come across this gem, thanks to Guardian book podcast. Hurray!

As with most of inventive and unorthodox genre deviations, describing Zoo City is a pain. I'm tempted to just call it a Paolo Bacigalupi/The Golden Compass mix and leave it at that, but I'm afraid I'll scare the readers away.

So, Zoo city. What is it? It's a sort of ghetto area in modern day/alt universe Johannesburg, residents of which literally carry the burdens of their sins on their shoulders. In a form of animals. Zinzi December is fresh out of prison, with a Sloth and her guilt weighing her down. She makes her living by scamming naive losers on-line (glance at your email, I bet you have at least one message asking you to help transfer money from some African country for a generous fee) and putting to work her newly acquired magic skills (the only perk of "the animalled") - she can find lost personal items - keys, wallets, rings, that sort of thing. When Zinzi's creditor tightens the screws on her, she decides to free herself of her drug debt by taking on a case that she normally wouldn't - to find a missing person, specifically, a half of a popular music duo iJusi.

Like all urban fantasy novels, Zoo City is a mystery, a thrilling one. But what sets it apart for me is not only the paranormal uniqueness (the whole idea of being an animalled and the moral implications that come with being one), but its very distinct sense of place. Joburg breathes. It's a vibrant, eclectic mishmash of drugs, sex, music, refugees, voodoo and, well, brutal humanity. I loved it.
Profile Image for Melissa McShane.
Author 58 books746 followers
August 17, 2012
I hate it when I read a book that's beautifully written, but has a clumsy plot. I was seduced by the writing while I was reading it, and it wasn't until after I finished that I started realizing how many problems I had with it. In this alternate history/SF world, people's guilt over their mistakes or crimes manifests as animals that are emotionally or psychically attached to them, sort of like having an albatross hung around your neck, except living and not so corpsey. This was interesting to me, since becoming a Zoo is all about feeling guilt and not about whether you're really culpable of whatever you feel guilty about. Zinzi gained her Sloth because her brother died over something she did, which makes sense (her whole background makes sense, even). But she went to prison for it, convicted either of murder or manslaughter, and that doesn't fit at all with her memories of the event. It bugged me that this was never explained, because it made her prison time (an important part of how she's treated in the book) seem irrational.

Mostly I felt like I wasn't getting the right kind of clues about where the story was going. The book starts with one of Zinzi's clients (she specializes in finding lost things) being gruesomely murdered, and because the crime scene is described in such detail, and Zinzi herself is temporarily suspected of doing it, it seems like finding the murderer, or finding out why the woman was killed, is what the plot will be about. But it isn't. The story immediately veers away into a missing-persons' investigation, and then *that's* derailed by a return to the murder, which is important after all. But the murder thing is just a distraction from the missing-person story, which is still the important one, except that it's really a cover for something else. The whole plot felt like it was there to give the beautiful writing a framework to hang on.

And boy, is this beautiful. Beukes is amazing at describing places and characterizing people. Even when I didn't like her characters, and even when I thought their motivations were unrealistic, I was still impressed by how easy it was to envision everything that was going on. One of the most elegant and horrifying moments is when Zinzi and her supplier/employer/loan shark pull an email scam on a sweet, generous couple. Zinzi's job is normally to write the emails, but if a potential victim insists on meeting the orphan/rape victim/lost tribal princess, she has to play that role in person. It was sickening and infuriating not only for what it was, but because Beukes did an amazing job in showing how easy it was for Zinzi and her boss to take advantage of innocents.

Once again I'm not sure how to rate a book like this. I know I gave it way more credit, and stuck with it to the end, because I'm a sucker for really good writing. But that's the same as saying I didn't like the plot. So I'd give it 2.5 stars if I could, but I'll mark it up rather than down.
Profile Image for Joel.
554 reviews1,622 followers
February 11, 2011
One of the things I loved the most about Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series was his rather brilliant twist on the concept of a witch's familiar: that in that world, each person's soul manifests as a companion animal that is their other half. It's not only because it's a cool idea; it also is an interesting reflection of our ongoing weird relationship with nature -- the connection we feel to the creatures of the earth, though most of us live far removed from it in cities and suburbs. And, you know, the idea of a little talking cat following me around is just fun. Provided, of course, you get a good animal like a cat, since you can't pick. According to the online daemon matcher they had on the Golden Compass movie website before it came out and failed, I would get a spider. I would not appreciate that. Other animals I would be happy with: Penguin. Welsh Corgie. Red-eyed Tree Frog.

Lauren Beukes' Zoo City has a similar conceit, which is why I wanted to read it even though I'm not typically drawn to Urban Fantasy as a genre. Check it out: Set in 2011, in a world that is basically our own, except sometime around the mid-Aughts, a strange plague descended upon humanity -- suddenly, people who commit murder (or are even responsible for a death through indirect means) find themselves marked for all the world to see by the sudden appearance of their own companion animals. I imagine this would make criminal cases really easy to prosecute ("Can you point out the perpetrator?" "Yes, that's him there, with the Red Panda in his lap.") They aren't quite the talking creatures of Pullman, but they do seem smarter than the average bear (no, really, someone gets a bear), and they do become your devoted friend for life.

Other than the whole "everyone knows you killed someone and therefore shuns you and you have to live in slums like the titular, crime-ridden Zoo City" angle, this doesn't sound that bad to me. i think a companion animal would be really fun! Did I mention they also grant their bearers useful magical powers? Hmmm, but then there is this downside where if your animal dies before you do, a black cloud of existential dread or something floats by to drag you directly to hell. So, also a negative.

So as you can probably tell, this is potentially a pretty dorky premise, but Beukes pulls it off with aplomb thanks to a strong central character, a well-chosen setting and creative world-building that pieces out an explanation for the funky backstory through occasional non-plot chapters consisting of emails, news articles, and even an IMDb page for a documentary on "Animalism" (complete with a nice nod to Pullman: "If you enjoyed this, you'll like Steering by the Golden Compass: Pullman's fantasy in the context of the ontological shift;" I see what you did there, Beukes).

Zinzi is a former journalist (and junkie) who lives in the slums of Zoo City, shunned because of her Sloth (which she has because of her Dark Past that is revealed slowly, and I must say the way the animals are doled out in this world seems slightly unfair at times). She's deep in debt to her former dealer and scrapes a living drawing in marks for 419 email scams (I told you it was just like our world) and using her special magical ability: finding lost things. Zinzi is a fun narrator -- clearly damaged, a sarcastic smartass hip to pop culture (she references lolcats! I'm going to need a shelf!) and highly capable on the job. Plus her companion animal is a sloth, so you know she's good people. Um, except for the murdery past.

The plot is ever-so-slightly incidental, as it mostly exists in order to provide a method to reveal the range of ways in which the phenomenon of Animalism (aka Acquired Aposymbiotic Familiarism) has changed what is otherwise clearly our world (I mean, they have email scams and Britney Spears, so it's gotta be us). That's not to say it isn't an interesting mystery: Zinzi is roped into tracking down the missing half of a Bieber-eqsue pop group; not surprisingly, murder, mayhem, and a nefarious record producer are involved. For a while, it almost feels like it could be YA, but there's a violent undercurrent that never really goes away; Beukes doesn't want you to forget that our likeable heroine has a Sloth friend for a reason, and that it is a very bad reason. I may have mentioned that the climax is intense; it's not just gory but profoundly sad, and I don't want to tread into spoilers but the unspoken themes that form the backbone of the entire thing, about the burdens carried by people who have done bad things -- very very bad things, yes -- but have to learn to go on living in a society that doesn't want them around, are surprisingly affecting for a book with a cartoon sloth on the cover.
March 11, 2021
Okay, so the premise for this book is pretty cool: in this world, puny humans who are guilty of crimes find themselves "animalled," meaning they're mysteriously and irrevocably bound to, err, well, you know, animals and stuff. Not only that, if they get physically separated from their animal, or if the animal dies, they very promptly get very dead. Now if that isn't one of the most originally creative and creatively original ideas ever, I don't know what is.

Being quite the fauna enthusiast myself (as my former profession might attest to), I was slightly a little excited when I started reading the book and was introduced to a most delicious array of lovely pets. The heroine, Zinzi, is literary saddled with a sloth named Sloth.

Yep, that's the guy. Life of the party and all that.

Her boyfriend's other half is a mongoose. (Which I thought was Super Extra Scrumptious—SEC™— because Barabas and stuff.) There's also a marabou stork, a sparrow, a bear, a spoiler spoiler spoiler (a very rare species, that) and a whole bunch of other fluffy beasts. But you know what the revolting thing about this book is? THERE IS NOT A SINGLE CRUSTACEAN IN SIGHT! NOT. A. ONE. I mean, come on, there's a bloody shrimping Maltese poodle, but NOT A SINGLE CRUSTACEAN? You have to be kidding me. A Maltese poodle, for shrimp's sake! And not even the tiniest of barnacles! Or the littlest of krill! This is a complete rip-off! I want my money back this instant, Lauren Beukes!

Oh yeah, Bernie's definitely with me on that one. He was slightly pissed off when he read the book and realized there wasn't a dino in sight, either.

I briefly considered unleashing my murderous children on the author in retaliation, but I'm currently busy working on Utter Domination *waves at Gar the Pitiless* and have bigger fish puny humans to fry right now. But anyway, moving on and stuff.

The setting of this story is one of the most refreshing ever. Eurocentrism begone! Hello Johannesburg, South Africa! 🤗🤗 With a narrative thoroughly anchored in the African continent—with its myriad cultures and histories—and a mostly (as in 98.2356%) black cast of characters, this story was a much-needed breath of fresh air water for my tiny little lungs gills! And I may not be a fan of the book, but I'd still recommend it based on the setting alone. I kid you not.

I have to admit that, disgusting lack of crustaceans notwithstanding, the premise and setting alone justify a 4-star rating. Or maybe even a 4.5-star rating when you consider the fact that this a standalone UF. Now you might not be familiar with this particular animal—it is endangered and nearing extinction as we speak—but the simple fact that it exists calls for a higher rating. And for a little celebratory dance, too .

So this is all very good and fascinating (a little self-praise never hurt anyone, right? Right), but at this point you might perhaps maybe find yourself wondering why the shrimp I gave this book such a despicable rating. Well. First, most of the characters in the story are unlikeable as shrimp. Which is a shame because they're all deliciously complex and very well-written. Zinzi, our MC, is the antichrist of professional Mary Sues . Saying that her moral compass is ever-so-slightly fished up would be putting it very mildly indeed. This is exactly the kind of scrumptious stuff that usually ends up with me kidnapping adopting characters and locking them up offering them free board in my High Security Harem. The problem here is that I couldn't give a fish about Zinzi. Or any of the other characters, for that matter. Why, you ask? I have no bloody shrimping idea. (Which bugs the fish out of me, just so you know.)

Then we have the plot. I have to say I am not a huge fan of missing persons-type mystery thingies—unless my boyfriends Danny Faust and Garrett are doing the investigating, obviously—so that was a meh from the start. The development of the plot is kind of a confusing mess. The whole thing is pretty much all over the place, actually. But I guess my main issue here is that it kind of feels the plot is there for decorative purposes only, and that the author uses it as an excuse to develop the world. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I mean, the world is pretty great after all, and this trick definitely would have worked, had the plot been both better constructed and more intriguing. But it wasn't and it wasn't so it didn't.

Right you are, Grumpy. Oh, and by the way, RIP and stuff. Here's hoping you're having a blast in Evil Feline Purgatory.

Nefarious Last Words (NLW™): this is a darkly delicious and deliciously dark tale. And our Lord Shrimp knows how much I 💕lurves 💕 darkly delicious tales. But there's a difference between darkly delicious and depressing as fish. And as withered, cold and black as my heart might be, there's only so much bleakness I can take. So there you have it and stuff.

[Pre-review nonsense]

And here we go again with the Deadly Meh Stuff (DMS™).

Review to come and stuff.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,975 followers
February 9, 2017
This is a particularly smooth genre-meshing urban fantasy noir SF horror, and if you don't like my description, then go read it and figure out your best fit. :) If you do, however, find that perfect descriptor, be sure to add all the little animas, the familiars that bad people get after murdering someone, and if you let your anima die, you get dragged to hell. Or is the novel firmly set in modern day Johannesburg filled with scams, missing persons, and mystery? Oh, wait, how about all the mutilations and the sense of upwelling horror? No? Then why the hell do I get this sense that things have just gone near-future high-tech?

Well that's because the book refuses to sit still and be neatly defined. Isn't that wonderful?

Our main character is a real spitfire, that's for certain, and I love reading about good scams as much as anyone, but that's just her favorite hobby and way to make money. For everything else and when times get rough, she falls back on a bit of the missing persons racket, and she really knows how to talk a good game. She's an excellent social hacker.

As for the Urban Fantasy angle, I'll tell you this: it's interesting and odd and magical and it works perhaps a bit too strangely for me. I like a bit of well-defined rules, if only to see those rules get broken or find a way to slip the leash of hell, you know? But, alas, it isn't that kind of story.

It is, fundamentally, full of elemental horror, which is great because I love horror and I think Ms. Beukes does it extremely well. This is the third novel that I've read of hers and all of them are quite a bit different in style, subjects, characters, and plots, save for the interesting parallels of con-games and horror. But rest assured, all the horror sequences are very, very different from one another, so you will all have a nice treat in store for you for each novel. :)

I'm very impressed, in general, but I have to admit that I like this one the least between it and Broken Monsters or Moxyland. Suffice to say, I've grown to be a very steadfast fanboy of the author and I'm going to be snatching up each of her novels as I can find them, with much pleasure.

Thanks goes to Netgalley and the publisher!
Profile Image for carol..
1,537 reviews7,877 followers
December 22, 2013

Zoo City is one of the more original, complicated fantasy books that I’ve read this year. I’m not even sure how to tag it, that’s how many elements come into play. Urban fantasy? Johannesburg is a major city, after all, and the animal angle is clearly unreal. Dystopia? Almost, but not quite; despite the animals, this is a current version of Johannesburg and African politics. Mystery noir? After all, there’s a missing person and an investigator of questionable character. Horror? A little witchcraft, a little mutilation, but mostly it’s only horror in that way that shows us our own hearts, evil enough to cut out. Literary fiction? It thoughtfully explores the human condition, guilt and identity. Mostly, it’s just interesting, creative and just a bit uncomfortable.

Unfortunately, since Goodreads can't decide if the 2010 Terms of Service are the current ones, or the ones that Kara references in the"Important Announcements" thread, I'm going to have to post the rest of my review at places it won't be deleted:

Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews781 followers
June 9, 2016
Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls fascinated me with her style and imagination, I thought it was a flawed gem but it put me on board for more Beukeses. The next logical book for me from the Beukes bibliography is 2011 Arthur C. Clarke Award winner Zoo City.

Set in an alternate reality where some people are suddenly paired with an animal as a consequence of something heinous they have done (or perhaps think they have done). Basically, if you are bearing some major guilt chances are an animal will suddenly show up next to you and you won’t be able to stray far from it. If this brings to mind “familiars” concept from Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass / His Dark Materials trilogy the author is well aware of it and even mentions the classic YA book in one of the chapters. The concept works very differently in the world of Zoo City however, the people are not born with animals, not everybody have them, and the “animaled” people are blessed with some kind of minor supernatural talent. Beukes gives the condition a clever medical sounding name: “AAF or Acquired Aposymbiotic Familiarism”. She also keeps the purpose of the animals quite ambiguous:
“But was the Penguin his Jiminy Cricket or the devil on his shoulder?”

In a recent Reddit AMA (a kind of live chat online interview) Beukes describes Zoo City as “Black magic noir about a girl with a sloth on her back and the magical ability to find lost things.” a nice and succinct description that saves me writing much of a synopsis. The “girl” in the description is the protagonist Zinzi December (a lovely name), a complex anti-heroine of sorts. Zinzi and her adorable stoat live in a shabby apartment where she ekes out a living as a finder of lost articles and a writer of scam e-mails. One day she is offered a large sum of money to find a missing pop singer, a job that turns out to be very difficult and dangerous.

Zoo City is an excellent urban fantasy, a subgenre I rarely read as too many of those are YA vampire romances. It is also a murder mystery thriller, and an allegory for the racism and violence still prevailing in Johannesburg. The storyline is a little convoluted but not too hard to follow, there is some hair-raising scenes of mortal danger and quite graphic violence. The ending is a little grim and the major characters’ storylines are not neatly wrapped up. A sequel does not appear to be in the works but it would be very welcomed.

I would like to end this review with this quote (hi Cecily!):

“A collection of movie monsters are posed all along the top of the bookshelf. On instinct, I pick up the one that looks like an upside-down dustbin with rows of studs down the side. As I do, it says "Exterminate!" and I nearly drop it.”

You can always tell how great an author is by the number of Whovian references they make.
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,232 reviews1,016 followers
September 28, 2016
I read this directly after finishing "Moxyland" and my wild enthusiasm for Lauren Beukes is not abating!

The setting is present-day Johannesburg, but in this alternate reality, a couple of decades ago, something strange started happening. Those who were guilty of terrible crimes were suddenly, magically saddled with an animal 'familiar' - reminiscent of the burden of the Ancient Mariner's albatross, but, well, alive. The "animalled" are also unable, it seems, to help liking and feeling affection for their animals. A further motivation to care for the beasts carefully is that their lives are inextricably bound to that of their familiars. They must maintain physical proximity, and if their animal dies (or is killed) that's it for them as well. Gaining an animal also comes with the benefit of certain strange powers.

Predictably, the animalled are regarded with a complex ambivalence by society - one mirroring our current attitude toward "thugs." They are shunned and feared as the violent dregs of society - but there's also the sexy frisson of badassery and scandal attached to their image.

Our protagonist, Zinzi, used to be an upper-middle-class young woman with a promising career in journalism. However, bad choices and drugs led to her current situation: living in a slum, a boyfriend who's married to someone else, getting blackmailed to work for a criminal scammer due to a debt, and oh yeah, with an animal - a sloth. She's also gained the power to find lost items, which she uses to make a little extra cash on the side, locating missing items for people.

Zinzi "doesn't do" missing persons - but when a couple of mercenary agents who seem like bad news rope her in to a case by offering her enough cash to pay off her overwhelming debt, she breaks her own rules. A sleazy record producer's latest teen starlet has gone missing, and he desperately wants her back to record her next album. But was the singer kidnapped - or did she run away? Does anyone really have her best interests at heart?

The fascinating, vividly gritty setting becomes the backdrop for a non-stop, action-filled and extremely violent mystery plot. Good, good stuff.

Many thanks to Mulholland Books and NetGalley for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinions are solely my own.

Profile Image for Penny.
172 reviews345 followers
November 13, 2013
I loved it! :)

I was over the moon when Zoo City was chosen to be one of the SciFi and Fantasy Book Club reads for November! A book set in a version of my home city with an interesting premise and great reviews! Yes please!

In my excitement I emailed Lauren Beukes and asked if she'd do a Q&A with our group and she said yes! As you can imagine I was bouncing off walls! It occurred to me mid-bounce that this would be an awesome opportunity for Sod (you may know him as Murphy) to rear his ugly head and twist my mind into not liking Zoo City. Fortunately not even Sod and his silly Law could manage it :)

The thing I loved most about this novel was how well Lauren captured Johannesburg. South Africa is a very difficult country to explain which I learnt for the first time when I lived in the US during my masters. Lauren explains the strange juxtaposition of wealthy suburbia with high walls topped in electric fences patrolled by security companies next to dilapidating buildings with inconsistent electricity and water next to tin roof shacks with no amenities save some shelter from the elements. Most portrayals of my home city irritate me because they miss the flavour of the city, the energy, the vibe. Zoo City really doesn't. It may not always put Joburg in a beautiful light, but it felt very authentic to this Jozi girl which was really amazing.

The world building is stunning. It isn't done in halting bit and pieces, but flows naturally around the story. I found myself completely drawn in from the very start and it only got better from there. You learn about the “animalled” as you read, how it happens and why, and how the process changes your life.

Zinzi is ever so real. I wouldn't call her a “strong female character” although I'm sure others have. She's clever and resourceful, but she has flaws and a past and issues. She has some brilliant coping techniques, in particular the counting trick, that must make her appear far more hardcore than she is. I loved her even when I hated her, but more than that I loved having the opportunity to hate her. She did some really awful things and I hated her for it, but that's life in the jungle.
Profile Image for ambyr.
879 reviews77 followers
August 22, 2011
Before I read this, I would have said there was nothing new you could do with the magical companion animals trope. I would have been wrong.

I enjoyed this--for the concept, for the characters, for the setting. I was all set to give it four stars. And then the ending happened.

As a side note, this (the MM edition) had the worst typesetting job I've ever seen in a professionally published book. Lots of random line breaks and mistaken indents, plus some unfortunate hyphenation. Maybe it's ignorable if you're not a typesetter yourself, but eesh. If I read any other Angry Robot books, I think I'd stick to the original TP edition--and hope it was cleaner.
Profile Image for Michael.
1,094 reviews1,510 followers
March 1, 2013
Lots of innovation in this melding of noir detective, cyberpunk, and urban fantasy genres. She doesn’t go overboard with any one of this triad. It was a fun ride mixed with a lot of disturbing elements. Having a likeable female hero helped me accommodate the widespread despair in the contemporary Johannesburg setting. But I am led to render a 3.5 star rating because of personal displeasure with the shocking and implausible dénouement to the tale. But then maybe horror is the 4th genre in the blend, which is not such a draw for me.

The story is set in South Africa in the approximate present, with technology and the local and global social structures recognizably current. What is different is the emergence of a class of people who are “Aposymbiont” with an animal (“zoo” people in slang). Somewhat similar to the people in Pullman’s series that began with “The Golden Compass”, these individuals have an emotional dependence and telepathic relationship with a specific animal. For our hero, black thirty-something Zinzi December, her critter is a sloth; that for her boyfriend Benoit is a mongoose. These folks are downtrodden, tend to live in slums (“Zoo City”), and, though protected by civil rights laws, they are subject to much discrimination and tend to suffer stigma as a consequence. On the plus side, each has a special semi-magical talent. For Zinzi, her power lies in getting mental pictures of things that people have lost, a skill she harnesses to make a living.

At first, the premise for the zoo people sounds silly. But having a close animal buddy wasn’t that hard to put under my wing. And the first-person perspective employed by Beukes drew me quickly into Zinzi’s case, which is finding a missing ring in the sewer system. The magical element for her character is easy to take, not much more than psionic skills claimed by many in the “real” world. When her elderly client turns up murdered, her financial straits force her to take on a less preferred type of case, that of a missing person. A wealthy, reclusive music producer contracts her to find a missing teen Afro-pop star. Using traditional gumshoe methods, she works up the usual range of subjects posing as a journalist, giving us a tour of the music scene and the lifestyles of the haves and have nots. When dangers and threats emerge from rocks she turns over, she uses her wits to survive more than the overused kickass toughness. The sloth helps watch her back in some cases, but largely is along for the ride.

The detective work in an exotic city is satisfying. As with typical noir heroes, Zinzi has a good heart, but is jaded and compromised from past mistakes. The whole bit about how and why she, and others, are cursed with the animal symbiosis is the elephant in the room. From the beginning, all we know is that for her it has something to do with her recovery from addiction, which feels like some kind of Faustian bargain. The negative attitudes that the larger society places on the zoo people feels like some kind of metaphor for the aftermath of apartheid. In other ways, the burden of the animal link has religious overtones, like a Christian cross to bear for sins committed, some kind of voodoo punishment, or a twist on Hindu reincarnation. There is meat in the rest of the book for the reader to explore and dwell on these possibilities.

Perhaps if I could digest a little better the shocking climax in the light of these questions, I would see a way to up my rating. I am impressed enough to read the other book by this talented writer, her debut dystopic novel Moxyland.
Profile Image for Snotchocheez.
595 reviews322 followers
July 8, 2015
3.5 stars

(sheesh, here we go again with Goodreads sucking up my reviews....twice...)

Gonna keep this short: I was very impressed with my first encounter with Lauren Beukes' imaginative stylings (not unlike those of China Miéville). Zoo City, impossible to pigeon-hole (is it science fiction? dystopia? thriller? social commentary? good old fashioned magical murder mystery? kinda "yes" to all) is a bizarre, alternate universe'd, present day reimagining of Johannesburg, South Africa, one where criminals are required to have animal familiars assigned and in proximity to their person. These criminals, dubbed "zoos", easily identified with animals in tow, are often ostracized and segregated to ghettoes called Zoo Cities.

The sinuous plot primarily focuses on one of these "zoos", Zinzi December, a 29 year-old woman who in her FL (former life) was convicted in her drug-fueled days for causing the murder of her brother and sentenced to carrying with her a sloth, shadily makes a living by carrying out internet scams and, on the side, finding lost items for people (thanks to an ESP-esque talent acquired along with the sloth). She's contracted by a music producer to find a the female half of a young twin Afropop sensation iJusi, who has gone missing. Zinzi's search takes her into the dark underbelly of Jo'burg, involving the militant guerilla-like tsotsi gangsta rap movement, the drug scene she fought so hard to recover from, and the world of muti (animal/human sacrifice for magical purposes).

Ms. Beukes fascinating alterna-world building makes the novel worth exploring (even as the plot gets a thick and weird...and occasionally incomprehensible, thanks to strange ghetto patois sprinkled throughout). There were parts I couldn't quite fathom, not being familiar with South African customs, places, and pop culture (whether real or imaginary). She's got a few more books to explore (including at least one set in the States); I hope to eventually read them all. She's super talented.
Profile Image for Silvana.
1,151 reviews1,118 followers
December 21, 2019
3.5 stars rounded up. I enjoyed it more than expected. Beukes is my first South African author and it is quite refreshing to read a speculative fiction book set in (alternate version) of Johannesburg. I love the slangs, the worldbuilding, the city lives, and of course the animal familiars in there. Sloth is cute!

The book is fast paced but sometimes it is easy to get lost in the details. The main character is so deliciously cheeky and witty, I love reading her thoughts and dialogues.

Still confused why this is considered as SF (it won the Clarke Award) and not fantasy. Oh well, will mark as both just in case.
Profile Image for Sophie.
458 reviews187 followers
February 19, 2020
This takes place in a world where whenever people feel extreme guilt, an animal will manifest and follow them around as a physical sign. This can also come with some abilities, such as the main character’s abilities to find lost things. The definition of “lost things” is flexible, as almost everyone has lost something or other, so this isn’t always as useful of an ability as it might seem at first glance.

Because of the guilt factor, those with animals are unpopular in society and have to live in their own section of society. And while the main character does help people find things, she also takes part in scams to rid people of their money. That is one of many detours the book took while solving a mystery. This book was so gritty and noir and atmospheric, the characters complex and often unlikable,and the writing was lovely. There are also lots of hints about what happened to the main character and why she has a sloth around her neck, and while in some ways it is obvious, in other ways you have to piece it together as you read.

The main mystery wasn’t very compelling and certainly not as interesting as everything else going on. I also felt that there were some flaws in how the plot was put together, but overall it was a very compelling and unique read.
Profile Image for Ruby  Tombstone Lives!.
338 reviews412 followers
February 17, 2012
While I'm not usually a big fan of urban fantasy, I really enjoy the writing style of Lauren Beukes, and loved her other novel Moxyland. Her female characters are strong, flawed and cynical, but above all realistic and relatable. On top of that, the protagonist in this one has a sloth. Yep. A sloth.

Zoo City has one hell of an original premise - that people who commit a grave crime such as murder, find themselves bonded to a magical animal familiar, and should that animal die, a dark force called "The Undertow" claims that person - and yet this never seems to stretch credibility. That in itself is quite a feat. For me, it would have been much more satisfying had the "rules" been made clear, though. For example: Does it apply only to murderers? On what basis is a person deemed truly responsible for the act in question? To really give myself over to fantasy, I find that I really need to understand the internal logic. The same applies to the different forms of traditional and animal magic that form a large part of the plot. As someone who has a working knowledge of many forms of cultural and traditional "magic", I found the logic to some of the spells and practices to be rather unclear, and therefore slightly less credible.

One of my favourite elements to this novel is Beukes' incorporation of local language and pop culture. The book is riddled with language and slang from various parts of the African continent and from various cultures. For the most part, the meaning of the words can be inferred from the context, but I did find myself spending a lot of time Googling all the same. Many of the words are surprisingly ungooglable, (my own word!), but I found some great references along the way, including the Sowetan Kasi slang dictionary here: http://blogs.sowetanlive.co.za/slang/....

Throughout the book, there is a lot of background information given on historical, political and civil issues from across the African continent. The references given at the back are well worth a read, and as valuable an exercise as the novel itself.

Beukes not only thoroughly researched the specialised topics in her novel, but had a lot of guest writers involved in writing faux news articles, research papers, movie reviews etc. My favourite section was a set of prison interviews written by Sam Wilson. In three short case studies, barely two and a half pages in total, Wilson conveys a full spectrum of human experience and emotion, and hints at the potential of the central premise to be used as a basis for many more stories. I will remember the story about butterflies in prison forever, I'm sure.

For me, structure, balance and symmetry are important in a novel, and I really found this to be an oddly unbalanced structure. The story chugs along quite smoothly for the first 75% of the book.... and then "Part Two" begins. I'm not sure it needed to be broken up into two parts, since there wasn't an enormous difference between the two. Part Two also seemed rushed, with the author racing to wrap things up, along the way skipping many of the details that could have made this a really wonderful novel.

Don't be put off by my 3 Star rating - it's really more of a 3.9. I did enjoy the novel. I do really, really want a sloth. I'm just a little disappointed that the book didn't fully realise its potential. I look forward to Beukes' next novel all the same.
Profile Image for Allison Hurd.
Author 3 books701 followers
June 20, 2021
This is probably my favorite UF book I've read in the past few years. Yeah, it's gritty but the grit doesn't rub off when the protagonist is done with it. Sure it's got romance but the problems and affection are earned.


Things to love:

-The world. It is dark, but the darkness makes sense in context and feels dimensional. We don't get the single slum story, we get lots of different aspects that make this feel less like trauma tourism and more like a real setting.

-The main characters. Zinzi is flawed in a way that is again thoughtful. She is a person who's done bad things, sure, but still human things and has a human approach to her life now. She isn't some rage beast or scaredy cat, she's herself. Benoit is also very likeable for the most part, and similarly doesn't have it all figured out, but isn't a huge mess either.

-The magic. What a cool concept! I loved this and how it added so many questions to the world.

Things I didn't love:

-The mystery. I'm still not entirely sure I understand? Or why I was meant to care so much?

-Solving the mystery. One of the flaws you see not infrequently in mysteries is that there isn't a flow to the clues and the push back from the baddies. It's hard to feed the audience enough to follow the progression and also make it hard to guess whodunnit. This fell into that same trap.

-The end. There's all this build up and confusion, and it feels a bit like they just stuck a bow on it and called it wrapped. I didn't get a sense of closure.

-The narrator. A white Canadian woman reads the book told from the POV of a Black South African woman, complete with an attempted SA accent. It wasn't the worst thing I've ever heard, but it wasn't a good thing either.

Definitely a good first impression, I'll be looking for more by this author.
Profile Image for David.
Author 18 books336 followers
February 20, 2011
This is not your average urban fantasy. It's set in Johannesburg, South Africa, in a world where murderers and other criminals acquire magical animals that are mystically bonded to them. "Zoos" are discriminated against, but with their animal also comes a magical talent, unique to each Zoo.

Zinzi December is an addict whose drug habit got her brother killed, and thus burdened her with her Sloth companion and a magical talent for finding lost things. She's a very flawed protagonist, but very believable, a woman who's not a bad person but has made some really bad choices and is now swimming with sharks as a result. Beukes's world is interesting, both the animal companions with their mashavi talents coexisting with the modern world, and her dark, gritty portrayal of South Africa, with all of its poverty, homelessness, refugees, sex trafficking, drugs, and AIDS. Definitely worth reading for something outside the usual North American/Western European setting.

The story gets a little bit choppy towards the end, and while I liked the fake magazine articles and academic essays describing the nature and history of the "animalled," it felt a bit like filler in places. Still, a good read that's a little outside the mainstream. I give it 4.5 stars, which I'm rounding up to 5 because I'd like to see more books like this in the "Urban Fantasy" aisle and fewer tattooed vampire-boinkers.
Profile Image for Ashley Daviau.
1,757 reviews757 followers
August 9, 2016
I wasn't sure to expect when I started reading this as I had no idea what it was about and bought it simply because the cover caught my eye. I'm really pleased I bought it because I thoroughly enjoyed this book! It was such a fresh, original concept and quite unlike anything I've ever read before! I really loved the whole concept of the animals and Zoo City, it completely drew me in right from the beginning. I also really enjoyed that there was some magic mixed in but that it also had aspects of modern times mixed in as well. All in all I absolutely loved this book and the world that the author created!
Profile Image for Kirstine.
453 reviews566 followers
March 13, 2016

I don’t normally read urban fantasy (or urban science fiction, not entirely sure what genre this is), not because the books of that genre have let me down, but because I don’t particularly like urban settings. They make me sad, and for some reason all urban books are always pointing out the miserable conditions of our existence.

As I owned this book, I thought I might as well read it. People have been giving it good reviews and the premise is pretty interesting. As someone who’s head over heels for Philip Pulllman’s ‘His Dark Materials’, the idea of someone getting a familiar – an animal – whenever they commit a crime (or a sin) is just deliciously wonderful. Here’s a manifestation of your guilt you have to carry around for the world to see and judge you by. Ah, but that’s not all they are! They also come with a gift (or a curse, depending who you ask). For Zinzi December, our protagonist, her Sloth came with the talent of finding lost things.

Or people.

This last part is what gets her involved in the subsequent mystery and crime solving.

This is also where the story stops making a lot of sense. Zinzi normally doesn’t do Missing Persons (why? well, take a guess, because no one’s gonna elaborate on that) except then suddenly she changes her mind and takes on a missing persons case anyway (why? take a guess again, because no one’s going to fill in for you).

A teen pop sensation is missing, Zinzi agrees to help find her and then she’s not missing (still not entirely sure how she was found) and then that’s not the mystery at all, but it kind of is? And some people die and there’s some drugs and clues I don’t exactly understand how Zinzi comes by and those clues lead us on deeper and deeper into this mystery, that I have no idea what’s about, but at least the writing is somewhat decent?

Honestly, I have only a vague idea of what the story of this book is, and an even vaguer idea of how or what moves us forward.

This book could have used another 50-100 pages simply for explaining things properly. You can’t write an effing detective story, even if it is urban fantasy, without letting your protagonist explain what the hell is going on and in what way these people and objects are significant to the story. You don’t just move us forward, keeping the deductions from us, and expecting us to still follow what’s happening.
I’m willing to concede that I might not always have paid full attention to the text, so perhaps I’ve missed a few details, but no decent book should leave you thinking “I have no idea what any of that was for” when you’re done

I’ll give it props for its setting, main characters and the idea of familiars, but very little else. Still, I won’t dissuade you from giving it a go for yourself; you might find it worth your while even if I didn’t.
Profile Image for Jess The Bookworm.
513 reviews87 followers
July 19, 2016
This book takes the reader into the nitty gritty of Johannesburg, the slums, the underworld, and at the same time it introduces a touch of magic in a very unique way.

Zinzi has committed a crime, and for that has been saddled with a connection with an Animal, a sloth, which she takes with her everywhere she goes. Due to her Animal connection, she has also developed the ability to find the lost things of other people. She lives in Zoo City in the Joburg CBD, where other people with Animals live, who, due to their criminal backgrounds, are ostracized and "marked" with their Animal.

This book explores the dynamic of Johannesburg as a city, from it's slums in the CBD, to the more affluent suburbs to the north, while adding drama and flawed characters full of regrets that you somehow find yourself supporting.

Very strange, but very gripping.
Profile Image for Megan Baxter.
985 reviews656 followers
May 19, 2014
So, I was reading 419, which was all about 419 scams, and was very unimpressed. It wasn't perceptive, it didn't grab me, and the characters all seemed flat. Move your gaze a week or so, and I start reading this urban fantasy set in Johannesburg, and although 419 scams are only a very small part of what this book is about, the small space they occupied in this book was far more interesting and trenchant than the entire other book on the matter.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Profile Image for Metodi Markov.
1,304 reviews298 followers
November 7, 2022
Имаше всички предпоставки да ми хареса, но някъде по пътя историята сериозно дерайлира и просто не става...

Още повече ми е жал, защото книги от африкански автори почти не се издават на български, а sci-fi такива пък ептен!
Profile Image for Charlaine Harris.
Author 397 books34.9k followers
March 3, 2015
This is a challenging book, requiring the reader to run with the premise, which is explained very gradually. But it's startlingly original, not a little sad, and full of crime and adventure.
Profile Image for Kara Babcock.
1,923 reviews1,258 followers
December 24, 2012
Identity is a very fragile and ephemeral concept, and the philosophy surrounding identity fascinates me. If, in the immortal words of Ke$ha, “we R who we R”, then who we are differs depending upon whether we are alone or with people, with friends or with enemies (or, if you are Ke$ha, with frenemies). We perform identity, wearing it like a costume. But it’s not something we entirely control. Identity is not so much a costume as it is a negotation between two entities, for part of my identity is not just what I seem to be but how others see me and interact with me.

Now imagine that with a sloth clinging to your back as an external manifestation of your complicity in someone’s death, and you have Zoo City.

Lauren Beukes returns to Johannesburg, South Africa in her second novel, but it’s not the same city. Instead of a tour of a corporate-dominated near future, Beukes spins a bit of alternate history our way. Magic is real, albeit not as potent as some people might like, and it’s never more obvious but with the zoos, animalled, or—if you are feeling polite and politically correct, the aposymbiotic. People who are guilty of another person’s death—i.e., murderers—become spiritually attached to an animal. They can’t stray too far from the animal without suffering great pain. And if the animal dies, they are consumed by a cloud known as the Undertow. The animalled, or apos, are thus identified as murderers beyond the shadow of any doubt, and are treated like outcasts.

Zinzi, our intrepid narrator, has a Sloth. It could be worse—at least she doesn’t have a carnivore, which I think would be more of a burden—but a Sloth is kind of a handful to carry around at times. Beukes implies that Zinzi’s complicity is not entirely with malice, thus establishing our otherwise downtrodden and morally ambiguous protagonist as someone who is, if not righteous, capable and worthy of redemption. Zinzi struggles to earn a living using her shavi—if you get an animal, you also get a minor superpower to go with it. Zinzi can find lost things, so that’s how she makes most of her money. In her downtime, she reluctantly composes new email scams for a company to whom she owes quite a bit of money. She gets involved with some even more unsavoury characters, like you tend to do, and that’s where the story becomes interesting.

From thereon out, Zoo City becomes a spiralling descent into the dank madness of a divided city. Beukes’ economy of exposition and keen ear for dialogue and characterization are an asset here. I found this Johannesburg and this cast far more bearable and likable than Moxyland ’s. I could sympathize with Zinzi’s plight and genuinely wanted her to succeed, cheering for her resourceful resilience and sighing whenever she suffered a setback. The plot is of the type that doubles back and folds up on itself several times over, which is not to say that it is too complex, but Beukes has skillfully tangled the various threads.

On the one hand, this is a missing person mystery, with Zinzi in the role of lead private investigator. It has all the hallmark archetypes prowling its pages: the shadowy kingpin who both hires Zinzi and poses her a threat; his nefarious henchmen who are Zinzi’s untrustworthy allies; the love interest, whose relationship with Zinzi is far from one-dimensional; and so on. On the other hand, Beukes explores some of the ramifications of her magic and what it means to have an animal. In particular, the book takes a very sharp turn towards the end, after the mystery part is largely resolved, and Zinzi finds herself on the run for a crime she hasn’t committed.

The twin motifs of guilt and innocence are huge here in Zoo City, for they compound that problem of identity that Zinzi and every other person with an animal feels. Nowhere does Beukes so clearly portray this as with Zinzi’s sometime-boyfriend Benoit. He has a Mongoose, and eventually we learn how he got it—the action of a terrified nineteen-year-old in genocidal Rwanda. Like Zinzi, he bears an external marker of his guilt—but does that make him a bad person? Benoit discovers his wife and children might still be alive in a refugee camp outside of South Africa, so he resolves to leave Zinzi and find them. Not only does this alter their relationship irrevoccably, it sets up an ending that is both poignant and nearly perfect.

As I mentioned earlier, Zoo City takes a sharp turn two thirds through. Just as it seems that the plot is winding down, Zinzi stumbles on to a larger game as people try to get rid of their animals (without dying themselves) in a particularly gruesome and costly manner. I’m not a fan of this transition, because it felt jarring. Beukes puts enough foreshadowing earlier in the book that this additional story element doesn’t seem entirely out of place. But I wish it had been developed more gradually instead of suddenly exploding into the foreground in the last part of the book.

Nevertheless, Beukes make up for it in the ending. I love the ending. It’s quite possibly the only way Beukes could have ended the book in a manner that is happy yet costly for Zinzi, which is exactly the balance she needed to strike. For Zinzi to escape these events completely unscathed would have been unrealistic and thematically unsatisfactory: after all, Zinzi still has to redeem herself for her actions as a scammer. Yet she is, I remain convinced, a good person who deserves that chance—and a chance is exactly what Beukes gives her. At great personal cost and with no promise of success, Zinzi sets out to fill in for someone else, just as that person made a regular habit of filling in for another.

Because it all comes back to identity. We aren’t who we think we are; we are our actions. This is the truth Beukes exposes through Zinzi’s voice and decisions. Despite all the prejudice and hardship Zinzi endures as an impoverished, animalled Black person in South Africa, she realizes that there is one thing no one else can determine about her life: what she does. Other people might judge her and construct their own versions of an identity for her, but that can never rob her of her ability to act on her own beliefs and convictions. In Zoo City, Beukes hands us a protagonist with blood on her hands and a Sloth on her back, and in so doing she tells a story about a woman who reclaims her freedom to be who she wants, not who others expect her to be.

Creative Commons BY-NC License
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 59 books8,138 followers
August 12, 2019
Second read for this fantasy. Hugely energetic mystery based around a brilliantly weird idea: people who commit serious crimes find themselves with linked animals, a bit like daemons but not nice--and if the animal dies, a weird shadowy doom comes for the person. The exploration of the social impacts of this (eg bad boy pop stars faking being animalled to look hard, or the issues of being animalled in prison) and the documentary inserts are probably my favourite aspects of this--the plot is a bit thin, on second read, but it's more than made up for by the exuberant ideas and vivid depictions of Jo'burg and the chaotic life of Zoo City where the animalled people live. There is a lot in here--muti, the dodgy world of manufactured pop stars, 419 scammers, issues of child soldiers and a lot more--and it's a very loud non-stop ride. Much fun.
Profile Image for Kayıp Rıhtım.
362 reviews257 followers
May 23, 2016
Zinzi ile tanışın. Sırtında kardeşini öldürdüğü gün bir parçası haline gelmiş Tembelhayvan’ıyla bir Hayvanlılar Şehri sakini. Başka bir deyişle, kendisi gibi hayvan sahibi olanlarla tıkıldığı şehrin bir parçası. Aynı zamanda tüm kitabı ağzından dinlediğimiz, kesinlikle eğlenceli ve bu karanlık dünyada, insanın yüreğinin dayanmadığı olaylarda bunları katlanılır kılan uçarı, çılgın ve kesinlikle ağzı bozuk bir kadın.

Tembelhayvan’ın Zinzi’yi hiç bırakmadığı gibi biz de onun eğlenceli tavırlarıyla kitabı elimizden bırakamıyoruz. Zinzi, bir hayvanlı olduğu gün aynı zamanda meslek edindiği güçlerini de kazanmış, 32 yaşında, siyahî bir kadın. Onun yeteneği kayıp şeyleri bulmak, ama dikkat edin, eğer kayıp şeylere insanlar dâhilse bu umurunda bile olmaz. İşi reddeder. Yoksa etmez mi?

Son işinde bulduğu kayıp yüzüğü teslim etmeye giderken garip bir şey oldu. Zinzi’nin müşterisi hunharca savrulmuş bıçak darbeleriyle öldürülmüştü. Hem olay yerinde duran şu Malta kanişi ve Marabut taşıyan hayvanlı iki insanın teklifi de neydi öyle? Kayıp birini bulmasını ve karşılığında iyi para alacağını söylüyorlardı. Eh, Zinzi küfrü basıp reddetti. Tabii o zaman işler bilindik rutinde seyrediyordu. Ama şartlar değiştiğinde Zinzi’nin kararı da değişti.

Hayvanlılar Şehri böyle eğlenceli, aynı zamanda merak uyandırıcı bir girişle başlıyor. Kötü şeyler sonucu ortaya çıkan hayvanlar ve bununla beraber kazanılan güçler var bu kitapta. Ayrıca, kayıp kızın Afrika’nın en ünlü pop grubu olan iJusi’nin ikizlerinden biri olmasıyla birlikte küçük yaşta ünlü olan gençlerin nasıl bir hayata düştükleri ve pek çoğumuzun özendiği o yıldız yaşamlarının gerisindeki kan dondurucu gerçeklere şahit oluyoruz.

İşin içine Afrika büyülerinin de eklenmesiyle birlikte durum öyle bir karışıyor ki, sonlara doğru eserin en gerilimli ve dehşet verici yanlarına şahit oluyoruz. Oysa gerçek dünyada geçmesi ve yazarın oldukça başarılı şekilde bu yeni düzeni oturtması nedeniyle bir yandan da her şey oldukça olağan geliyor. Sanki hayvanlı insanlar hep vardı ve biz onları her gün bir yerlerde görüyormuşuz gibi hissettiriyor.

Aslında kitabın ana kurgusu bu kadar. Ancak onu yücelten kısımları bu basit görünümlü kurguda değil, o kurguda sayısız girift doku oluşturan detaylarda. Çünkü o detaylar kitabı özgünlükte üst sıralara taşımakla kalmayıp, hem dolu hem de belli bir ağırlığa sahip bir eser yapıyor.

Hayvanlılar Şehri’nin detaylarını bu kadar övdükten sonra, en sıra dışı parçalarından birini anlatmamak esere büyük haksızlık olur. Size bunca şey anlattım, ama henüz Dibeçeken’den bahsetmedim bile. Zinzi her ne kadar kitap boyu sinyallerini verse de, bu olgunun asıl anlamı sonlara doğru ortaya çıkıyor. Dibeçeken için yapılabilecek en yalın tanım, hayvanlı insanların laneti olduğu olacaktır. Ama olur da hayvan ölürse… İşte kıyamet kişi için o zaman başlar.

Kitabın bir başka ilgi çekici noktasıysa ara bölümleri. Bu bölümlerde mailler, gazete haberleri, bazı internet sitelerinden alınan kullanıcı yorumları yer alıyor. Bunlar tamamen kurgu olmakla birlikte kitabın sonundaki “Teşekkürler” kısmından anladığımız kadarıyla yazar, analizleri ve haberleri konusunda uzman kişilere yazdırmış. Bu da kitapta saygı uyandıran bir başka etmen olarak bizleri selamlıyor.

Ancak bitmedi. Çünkü Lauren Beukes bir yerde öyle bir ters köşe yapıyor ki, bu andan sonra hayvanlı insanların hayvanlarına nasıl bakacağımızı bilemez hale geliyoruz. Pekâlâ, onlar günahların beden bulmuş hali gibi, ama kötüler mi? Zinzi’nin Tembelhayvan’ı onun hem iş ortağı hem de kadının uygunsuz davranışlarında onu azarlayan, vuran ve küsen vicdanı. Şimdi bir daha düşünün, onlar günah tohumları mı yoksa günahkârların somutlaşmış vicdanları mı? Yorum tamamen bize kalıyor.

Hayvanlılar Şehri, her ne kadar fantastik türünde olsa da herhangi bir fantastik okurundan çok, yetişkin kesime yakın okurlara hitap edecek yoğun bir eser. Aldığı ödülleri sonuna kadar hak eden bu eserin nihayet dilimize kazandırılmış olmasından da türün takipçisi olarak büyük mutluluk duyuyorum.

- Hazal ÇAMUR

İncelemenin tamamı için:
Profile Image for Angie.
1,214 reviews131 followers
July 24, 2015
I always struggle with the first sentence of my reviews, so I’m just going to dive right in and tell you all about this stunningly magnificent book that surprised the hell out of me.

Zoo City is really hard to describe. Why? Because I’m afraid I might not be able to adequately explain why this is a once-in-a-lifetime-MUST-read. If you’re not from South Africa, the setting and colloquial narrative might – at first - feel a little strange and disconcerting. Yet, well into the story, you’ll soon enough find yourself settling into Zinzi’s shoes. So don’t let the first few chapters deter you from immersing yourself into this very unique and magical novel. I promise you it will all be worth it in the end.

Zinzi is a difficult protagonist to describe. She’s unconventional, for sure, but she’s brave, tough as nails, and is not afraid to speak her mind. That is only a small part of what makes Zinzi so extraordinary. There’s so much more to her. Throughout the story we discover more layers to Zinzi as she comes to terms with the death of her brother and trying to make a living in a brutal reality where she’s judged and ostracized.

And I also have to say this about Zinzi’s animal companion: you’re going to love Sloth! He plays a minimal role in the story, but the few interactions we have with him is enough to steal your heart.

You know what impressed me most about this book? Everything, really. But most of all, the story itself took center stage more than the characters, setting, and magical elements. This can mostly be ascribed to Beukes expertly managing to make the fantastical seem plausible.

Two things about this story that also stands out particularly is the nail-biting suspense at the pinnacle of the finale (and what a magnificent finale!), as well as the conclusion. This is not a happily-ever-after ending, but it is a much better and appropriate ending than I could’ve imagined for Zinzi’s story.

Overall, I was massively surprised and delighted by the ingenuity of Lauren Beukes’s imagination and creativity. She clearly put a lot of thought and effort into writing this book. I don’t read many South African authors; hardly any, to be truthful. But if Beukes’s quality of work is anything to go by, I’m definitely rethinking my stance on local authors from my homeland.
Profile Image for Miquel Codony.
Author 11 books257 followers
July 29, 2021
Es una buena novela a la que se le podría pedir algo más. La sensación que da es que la autora se lo ha pasado bomba escribiéndola. Zinzi es una protagonista carismática con una voz interesante. Me gusta el tono de novela negra y como juega con las historias de periodistas, aunque el argumento puede volverse confuso en ocasiones. El "worldbuilding" se construye con cuatro pinceladas y eso está bien, pero al mismo tiempo se desaprovecha un poco. Me encantaría que Beukes volviera al mundo de Zoo City y lo explorara un poco mejor, pero la novela tiene personalidad y la recomiendo sin dudarlo.

"Mai Més" la publica en catalán dentro de poco, no la dejéis escapar.
Profile Image for Lost Planet Airman.
1,249 reviews72 followers
January 15, 2019
Tackled this on audio, and frankly, I got a little lost near the end. Although the narrator kept my attention with excellent accents and other voice work, I think my problem was that I didn't cement the second-string characters firmly in my head, and that the author leaps past a few plot holes.

Well conceived and well constructed, it also has deep veins of language, violence and sexual situations, so caveat emptor.
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